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Memory Techniques: An Introduction

5/30/2017 Have you ever read about some genius who seemingly had a memory
reserved for movies or fiction? Have you ever wished you had some of that, even if you
have a good memory now, or can barely remember the number of your mobile phone?
The fact is that these seemingly impossible feats are well within the grasp of anyone, if
they learn some basic techniques of memorization. Here is an introduction.

48 blindfold boards - The tale behind the record

by David Fadul

When one hears of feats such as the American grandmaster Timur Gareyev who, late in
2016, broke the world record for the most games in a blindfold simul an amazing feat
that lasted nearly 20 hours by playing against 48 opponents, one has little choice but
to think that those capable of such deeds must be some endowed with some very rare
almost magical capability.

After all, not only did Timur need to be an accomplished player (which is expected from
a grandmaster) but he also needed to be naturally gifted with a prodigious memory.
Otherwise how could he possibly remember and keep track of nearly 50 boards at one
time? While good players can play blindfolded, and the best known simul players can
push the limits and play a dozen or more games at a time, Gareyev's accomplishment
was singularly rare, as attested by Najdorf's 45-boards-record having stood for so many
years. So, is Timurs memory some gift bestowed upon him by divine dispensation?

Timur Gareyev during his World Record setting 48-board Blindfold Chess Simul (photo by Lennart
Ootes)

Well, as Heraclitus wrote, some of us see gods, others see men. As those who
researched Timurs accomplishment will have discovered, his success owes more to
incredibly hard work and almost obsessive preparation than to an innate prodigious
memory. And that is not unusual; most all, as far as I know world memory
champions achieved their proficiency by mastering and constantly practicing mnemonic
techniques and tricks.
Timur Gareyevs preparation spanned months (photo by Albert Silver)

Many people think of memory as an inalterable characteristic, akin to a persons height


or skin color one has either good memory or bad memory and there is little to nothing
that can be done to change that. But the truth is that, while some aspects of memory are
indeed innate, mnemonic techniques exist that can be learnt and utilized by anyone and
that can improve dramatically ones capacity to remember.

Myself, I used to have something of a poor memory nothing pathological, just the
usual I will forget that phone number if I stop repeating it till I write, plus I cannot
remember dates deal which, I believe, attracted me toward memory techniques. The
first time I remember knowing that such things existed, was some 20 years ago, when I
found Jonathan D. Spences book the Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci. While it was an
interesting read that I certainly recommend the book, for some reason, did not
kickstart my career as a practitioner of the memory arts; as a matter of fact, all I
remember from the book are some of the historical exploits of the eponymous character.
It took another year or two until I read Francis Yates The Art of Memory a
compendium of how memory tricks and practices have been applied through history.
While it moved me to attempt to apply some of the techniques, the book was far from a
manual and my first attempts were very misguided. After a few fails I lucked upon a
treasury: a Professor in my old college who had been a memory athlete and a
mathemagician (a person who can perform difficult calculations in their heads). He
described to me a number of techniques that served as a basis for my later development.

I was finishing my masters degree in Law by then, so I didnt get to use my newfound
powers as an undergrad. But it proved very useful when I took the bar exam I had
been practicing for months and was particularly proud not so much of the result, but of
something that happened during the test: for some strange reason, people are not
allowed to write down their answers, so I couldnt check my score; except that I was
able to memorize all 80 answers in the multiple choice test in a few minutes. That night
I proudly showed that I could say exactly how I answered every question, curiously, no
one but me seemed to care about anything beyond whether I had passed or not.

Since then I have put my memory to several tests: I memorized the atomic number of all
the elements in the periodic table, the 100 first digits of Pi and e and, when I feel like
showing off, I memorize the barcode of the items in my supermarket car. Since I read
about Timurs exploit I started looking for ways to apply this knowledge to chess, but I
am jumping ahead. So, how did I graduate from a poor memory, to a decent (if I may
say so myself) memorizer? To do that I had to master three techniques: the best known
of which, by far, is the memory palace.

Those who follow the British series Sherlock may remember that the detective, as well
as one of his nemeses, has a memory palace (which he calls a mind palace) and uses it
in several episodes Grranted the depiction of the technique is highly fictionalized.
Also, Sherlock is far from the first example in the last decade in which memory palaces
make their way into pop culture, so much so that this once arcane method of
memorization is now often recognized, even if by name alone. Still, there are a lot of
misconceptions and myths regarding the subject.

So, first things first: can you build your own memory palace? Absolutely. There is no
special skill or innate gift necessary and almost all of us can do it. Now, should you
invest your time and energy in doing so? That is a much harder question, and the answer
obviously depends on your needs and interests. So that you can make an informed
decision, let me tell you a few things about memory techniques.

First, while it is the most famous and has a very long and illustrious history, the memory
palace is not the only memory technique available, in fact, by itself, it is not particularly
powerful despite its nifty name. Still, it deserves its reputation as the palace serves as
a framework that potentiates other techniques.

Second, my experience with memorization methods is that you do reap what you sow
the more effort you put into their elaboration, the more efficient and powerful they
become. If you choose to put even a modicum investment, you will be able to remember
bar codes, phone numbers and passwords not to mention grocery lists. If you are
willing to put in some serious effort, you could memorize hundreds, or even thousands,
of chess games (or chess openings) quite easily or play several blindfolded games
simultaneously assuming of course you can otherwise play several games
simultaneously.

Now, I have to emphasize what a memory palace cannot do. It will not allow you to
see a chess board in your mind and play as if you could see it. If you can do that
already, that is great, but that is not what the palace is about. Nor you will remember
the games stored in it. That may sound completely insane to anyone who is not familiar
with mnemonics: what does that mean, not remembering the games I memorized? That
is blatantly absurd! Well, to be specific, I should have said that you will not remember
the games in the same way you would had you memorized them the old fashioned way.
In order to illustrate the difference, let me tell you about the first real test to which I put
my own memory palace (actually it was a combination of memory palace and peg
system, but I will explain that later).

When I was first learning mnemonics, years ago, I decided that a good test of its
efficiency would be memorizing the name and atomic number of all the elements on the
periodic table. While I had no real use for this information, I thought that it would be, at
least, an interesting process and that it would be a cool party trick (I was right about the
former and very wrong about the latter).

Considering that I was building up my peg system concomitantly, I would say that I
made a good time on that test just shy of two weeks. To this day, given time, I can tell
you the atomic number of any element or the element corresponding to any atomic
number. I could tell you, for example that Tungstens atomic number is 74, but I could
not, for the life of me, tell you what element is above it on the table.

That is because I do not see the periodic table in any recognizable way when I
accessed Tungstens atomic number instead, I see a miniature car sinking on a glass of
orange Tang over a table standing in front of a bookstore in my old college campus. The
relation between a Tungsten 74 and that image is unlikely to be clear to anyone but me,
but that is ultimately irrelevant, as long as the connection remains clear to me, I will
remember.

I hope my example illustrates both the strength and weakness of the memory palace
(and all memory techniques really): they operate by codifying information that is hard
to remember into information that is easy to remember. This makes it much easier to
retain it but codifying and decoding are active processes that demand time and effort to
perform. What does that mean for chess games? If you are playing a game and realize
that there is a position that is identical to the one you are facing right now (which is
something that you must remember the old fashion way), then you will have to first
navigate your memory palace to find the match and then decode the stored game until
you find the position you want. Naturally, I am assuming that you had previously stored
this particular game. The good news is that is much easier than it sounds, and even as a
beginner you will be able to do all that in a few minutes, nothing that would stand out in
a non-blitz game. The even better news is that it gets increasingly faster and easier the
more you apply the techniques.

All that being said, I cannot pretend to be impartial when the subject is mnemonics;
learning and applying these techniques has had a significant impact in both my
academic and personal life. It goes from apparently little things such as not having to
write down every bit of information into my smartphone (and trust me when I say that it
does make a difference) to being able to quote the year of publication of any of a
hundred sources you are quoting. That skill is particularly useful to me right now: as I
am finishing my PhD in Epistemology: I can assure you that people are much more
confident that you know what you are talking about if you can quote the year of
publication of a book without checking your cell phone. As for chess, I believe that
Timurs amazing results speak for themselves. Finally, learning these techniques will
permanently alter your memory and improve your capability to remember in the old
fashioned way as well. So, making a long story short, I cannot recommend it strongly
enough: learning to build your own Memory Palace will pay off handsomely the effort
you put into it.

So if you are willing to follow in this enterprise, in the forthcoming articles I will
provide a simple step-by-step tutorial on how to build a Memory Palace and show you
the major and peg systems. These can all be used independently, but are far more
efficient when combined.

More importantly, I will make sure you avoid some of the pitfalls that cost me months
of frustration - and believe me when I say that this is the most important thing that I can
offer you. As the Professor the one who taught me about mnemonics once told me,
there is nothing particularly hard about mnemonics (on the contrary, it is quite easy!).
What leads some who attempt it to give up on their goal is that they are often stuck by
applying the techniques improperly. Luckily, it is easy to avoid that; all that it takes is to
patiently follow the steps in order. If you are willing to do that there are no limits to
how far your memory skill can go.

Topics memory technique, memory, Gareyev


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See also
48 blindfold boards - The tale behind the
record
1/14/2017 On December 4, 2016, Timur Gareyev played against 48 opponents in a
blindfold simul that lasted nearly 20 hours to set the new world record, a truly
unbelievable exhibition of human strength and stamina. However, the road to the record
was one of extensive preparation during which he met with leading experts in memory
techniques, and even brought in the last surviving opponent of Najdorf's 1947 record,
92-year-old Luciano Andrade. Here is the full story behind the world record.

More...

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Chess News

48 blindfold boards - The tale behind the


record
by Albert Silver
1/14/2017 On December 4, 2016, Timur Gareyev played against 48 opponents in a
blindfold simul that lasted nearly 20 hours to set the new world record, a truly
unbelievable exhibition of human strength and stamina. However, the road to the record
was one of extensive preparation during which he met with leading experts in memory
techniques, and even brought in the last surviving opponent of Najdorf's 1947 record,
92-year-old Luciano Andrade. Here is the full story behind the world record.

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Timur Gareyev breaks blindfold record
Blindfold king Timur Gareyev on tour
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During the first half of the 20th century, there was a rush to break the record for the
most blindfold games at a time, starting with the great Harry Pillsbury, who set the
standard with 20 boards in 1900. The record was increased at alternate intervals by two
champions vying for that final word in blindfold records: Richard Reti and Alexander
Alekhine, who step by step raised the number to 32 boards. George Koltanonowski
claimed the record at 34 boards, but was soon surpassed by the brilliant Miguel Najdorf.

In 1939, while playing a tournament in South America, Najdorf had learned of Hitlers
invasion of his country, and with his fellow (Jewish) team mates, chose to stay in
Argentina. Seeking to reach out to his family, of whom he had no news, he construed
that news of a world blindfold record would be carried by newspapers around the globe,
and seeing this news, any surviving family would know he was well, and seek him out.
Miguel Najdorf giving a simul in 1955

In 1943, he broke the previous record with a fantastic 40 boards, but with no happy end.
Having already learned of his wife and childs demise before 1945, he still hoped to
connect with family and friends, and in 1947, established a new record with 45 boards
in a massive display in So Paulo, Brazil.

Alexander Alekhine, 4th world champion, is regarded as one of the strongest blindfold
players ever

The number of 45 boards was such a high standard that for decades none came close
and the few claims to have broken it, such as Janos Flesch, were soon cast in doubt due
to dubious conditions uncovered later. Thus Najdorfs great record stood for 64 years,
until a German master, Mark Lang, finally one-upped the feat after months of
preparation, raising the bar to 46 boards in 2011.

However, another player also had his eye on Najdorfs record: the ebullient free spirit
Timur Gareyev. Hailing from Uzbekistan, the US-based chess grandmaster had made a
name for himself with off-beat articles sharing his passion for life doing skydiving,
globetrotting, and eventually blindfold simuls. Realizing he had an obvious talent for it,
and their popularity, his displays were soon in regular demand, with newspapers
gobbling it up, describing the flip-flop wearing, exercise bicycle pumping, blindfold
player as a vision of admiration and astonishment never to be forgotten.

After years of making the rounds with his blindfold displays, Gareyev announced his
plan to officially break the record early in 2016. While he raised funds for the event, he
also began serious preparation for this huge undertaking.

One might assume that those who perform such feats of intellectual extremes are also
endowed with superhuman abilities such as a computer-like ability to calculate, or a
memory that will recite a license plate seen 12 years earlier, the truth is that extensive
specialized preparation is involved.

Playing ten boards for a player of his skill (he peaked at world no. 68 in 2013) might be
attainable without such hard work, but not the record-breaking number he hoped to
achieve. Gradually, his public displays grew more ambitious, with 20 boards and more,
and he also regularly met with memory specialists such as James Jorasch, founder of the
Science House in New York, who is a regular participant in the World Memory
Championships. Jorasch is quick to explain that this is thanks to mastery of specialized
techniques such as Memory Palace, and not some winning ticket in the genetic lottery
he was lucky enough to be born with.

James Jorasch of the Science House coached Timur Gareyev to help prepare him for the
challenge. (photo by Albert Silver)

One of the unexpected obstacles, Gareyev and Jorasch explained, is the very first moves
played on the board. At first sight, this is counter-intuitive and one would think that 40+
complex boards would be the greatest challenge. However, they clarified that the
difficulty at the start is possibly greater because so many of the boards are either
identical, or nearly identical, due to repeated opening moves. There is a serious danger
of confusing one board for another, and that is where techniques such as Memory Palace
can be of enormous help. In fact, accounts of Pillsburys records in 1900 describe
difficulties he had precisely at this opening stage.
Timur Gareyevs preparation spanned months (photo by Albert Silver)

With displays of 20, 25, and 35 boards, Gareyev showed he was ready, and the date was
set for December 3, 2016 in Las Vegas. Players from the Las Vegas area, as well as
around the country, and even a few around the world via online connections were
brought in, and the show was set up for an incredible 48 boards. As a form of full-circle
in history, one of his online opponents was the inexhaustible chess enthusiast, 92-year-
old Luciano de Nilo Andrade, who is the last surviving participant from Najdorfs
original record from 1947.

Luciano Andrade often described his experience of that original record nearly 70 years
before, and upon learning of Gareyevs plan to establish a new one had expressed a
fervent desire to be a part of it. Due to his advanced age, Timur made allowances for
him to participate via the online server Playchess.com, and with the assistance of the
author, dream became reality.
92-year-old Luciano Nilo de Andrade, the last surviving participant from Najdorfs
1947 record, participated in the 2016 record, accompanied by friends FM Alberto
Mascarenhas (left) and Albert Silver (right).
(photo by Albert Silver)

In this quick scene, with the simul already underway, Luciano was shown his image and
participation shared on Facebook, which he quickly showed his nurse. He is heard
commenting that the photo does not do him justice, though he admits he is 'no model'.

The entire event took place in a large hall, with a live video broadcast on Twitch TV
with multiple cameras and commentary by host Jay Stallings, and players tuned in from
all over to watch the amazing feat. The organization was thanks to Jennifer Vallens of
Off da ROOK as organizer sponsor, without whom none of it would have taken place.
Timur Gareyev always conducts his blindfold simuls from an exercise bike. It is not
meant as a gimmick, and he explains it helps him. (photo by Lennart Ootes)

Cycling away on an exercise bicycle as he played, which he explains helps him feel in
touch with his surroundings, Timur Gareyev was heard announcing his moves board to
board. All the while, he gesticulated with his hands and arms, working out visual images
for each board and move in his mind. The moves took considerable time to make the
rounds at first as he clearly worked to fixate the games and positions into his mind. All
seemed to be going smoothly until a moment of horror and concern took place after
seven moves: a loud and persistent fire alarm was set off, interrupting the proceedings.
Players left the area, and a visibly frustrated Gareyev was helped out. Was the record
attempt going to be aborted? The penetrating sound lasted for a full ten minutes,
overheard on everyones computer as they watched it live, all during which he never
took off his blindfold. Finally, the noise stopped, later revealed to have been caused by
burned food from the kitchen, and he got back on his exercise bicycle. After seeing him
resume all the boards as if nothing had happened, flawlessly citing board numbers and
player names, no one had any doubt he would succeed.
Seen on his exercise bike, Gareyev never stopped pedaling while he played (photo by Lennart Ootes)

Enormous credit must also be given to the participants as the author can attest to. It
might seem obvious to focus on Gareyev who is doing all the hard work, or the hardest
in any case, but with games that might last as long as 20 hours, and moves taking 30
minutes each, it requires the active and dedicated participation of players willing to see
it through. In many cases this required help to share the burden. 92-year-old Luciano
certainly had the desire and enthusiasm to play it until the end, but not the stamina, and
eventually the torch was carried also by Albert Silver, and at the end by Priyadarshan
Banjan. This was not an isolated case, and what really mattered was that the games were
finished properly and with dignity so that Timurs superhuman effort was not tainted by
insincere play.

Finally, after nearly 20 hours, Timur Gareyev finished the display with 35 wins, 7
draws, and 6 losses, successfully completing his world record attempt with 80% over 48
boards. The self-monikered Blindfold King had earned his name: long live the king.
Timur Gareyev during his World Record setting 48-board Blindfold Chess Simul (photo by Lennart
Ootes)

Games:

Barbre,S 1993 Gareyev,T 2619

0
Brownscombe,T 2149 Gareyev,T 2619
1
1
Gareyev,T 2619 Bodziony,P 1733
0
1
Gareyev,T 2619 Dashoff,D 1923
0

Gareyev,T 2619 Judkins,K 1828

0
Gareyev,T 2619 Lucan,M 1834
1
1
Gareyev,T 2619 Ramirez,J -
0

Gough,T 1830 Gareyev,T 2619

0
McGregor,A 1850 Gareyev,T 2619
1

Sobel,S 1875 Gareyev,T 2619

Gareyev,T 2619 Babadilla,O - 1
0
1
Gareyev,T 2619 Clay,C -
0
1
Gareyev,T 2619 Currell,J -
0
1
Gareyev,T 2619 Dunn,J -
0
1
Gareyev,T 2619 Kiraly,A -
0
1
Gareyev,T 2619 Lester,T -
0
1
Gareyev,T 2619 LVDS A -
0
0
Gareyev,T 2619 McCarthy,A 1897
1
0
Gareyev,T 2619 Merwin,S 1967
1
1
Gareyev,T 2619 Rhoads,D 1793
0
1
Gareyev,T 2619 Russell,S -
0
1
Gareyev,T 2619 Sletten Jr,D 1116
0
1
Gareyev,T 2619 Steel,B -
0
1
Gareyev,T 2619 James,S 2004
0
1
Gareyev,T 2619 Watkins,C -
0
1
Gareyev,T 2619 White,S -
0
1
Gareyev,T 2619 Wu,S 1003
0
0
Dunn,M - Gareyev,T 2619
1
0
El Dorado TEAM - Gareyev,T 2619
1
0
Holcomb,C - Gareyev,T 2619
1

Konzona TEAM - Gareyev,T 2619

0
Lester,R - Gareyev,T 2619
1
0
LVDS B - Gareyev,T 2619
1
1
Lyle,S - Gareyev,T 2619
0
Mikolic,J - Gareyev,T 2619 0
1
player Gribbon,C - Gareyev,T 2619
Let's Play Chess 0
1600 Gareyev,T 2619
TEAM 1
0
Ritesh,M - Gareyev,T 2619
1
0
Scott,T - Gareyev,T 2619
1
0
Smith,T 1897 Gareyev,T 2619
1

Tyson,B - Gareyev,T 2619

0
Van Voorhis,S 1314 Gareyev,T 2619
1
0
Wu,S 895 Gareyev,T 2619
1
1
Gareyev,T 2619 Jorasch,J -
0
0
Gareyev,T 2619 Smith,J -
1
0
Gribbon,C - Gareyev,T 2619
1
0
Hildebrand,D - Gareyev,T 2619
1
Nilo de
- Gareyev,T 2619
Andrade,L
1
Rost,B - Gareyev,T 2619
0
1.e4 780.737 54% 2422
1.d4 638.333 55% 2439
1.Nf3 183.338 55% 2438
1.c4 123.164 56% 2440
1.g3 15.018 55% 2426
1.b3 6.614 52% 2411
1.f4 4.125 45% 2369
1.Nc3 2.382 48% 2382
1.b4 1.050 44% 2362
1.d3 436 46% 2352
1.e3 434 44% 2366
1.a3 390 47% 2376
1.c3 174 48% 2379
1.g4 108 37% 2366
1.h3 70 32% 2331
1.h4 27 44% 2313
1.a4 14 46% 2432
1.Nh3 12 58% 2357
1.f3 7 21% 2351
1.Na3 5 70% 2388

Timur Gareyev at ChessBase:

Developing the Initiative

By Timur Gareyev

Languages: English
Delivery: Download
Level: Advanced, Tournament player, Professional
Price: 9.90

Dynamic play is what makes your chess effective and, most importantly,
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You either come out victorious or you fall crushing down. This is the
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Timur Gareyev:
Trompowsky for the attacking player

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Interview with Timur Gareyev

Topics world record, Timur Gareyev, record, Gareyev, blindfold chess, blindfold

Albert Silver Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he


completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a
peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he
joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a
passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications.
Feedback and mail to our news service Please use this account if you want to contribute
to or comment on our news page service

See also
Timur Gareyev breaks blindfold record
12/5/2016 On December 3, at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas Timur Gareyev
made an attempt to break the world record in blindfold simultaneous play. Without
seeing the board Gareyev played against 48 opponents at the same time, more than any
player before him. With a mask before his eyes and on an exercise bike. 35 wins, 7
draws, and 6 losses later Gareyev could say: "Yes, world record."

More...
See also

Blindfold king Timur Gareyev on tour


4/6/2016 In 2016 Timur Gareyev wants to break the world record in blindfold play by
taking up 47 opponents simultaneously. In March he played a 35 player blindfold simul
in Santa Clara, California. Gareyev lost one game, drew two and won 32. As Gareyev
believes that physical fitness and mental excellence go together he spun a stationary
bike for over 9 hours during the simul!

More...
Video
The Botvinnik System in the English
opening
The setup for White recommended by Valeri Lilov is solid and easy to play the
thematic moves are almost always the same ones: Nge2, 0-0, Bg5 (or Be3), Nd5, Qd2.
Later, according to Blacks setup, things continue with f4 or even Rac1, b4 and play on
the queenside. Starting with the classic Botvinnik-Spassky, Leiden 1970, the author
describes this universally employable setup in 7 videos (+ intro and conclusion).
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Kyoku 1/14/2017 08:43


Long live the King!

jhoravi 1/14/2017 02:56


Timur Garayev in his latest record is like wearing a VR gear. They should have stuck to
the traditional handkerchief to make it more convincing.

dhochee 1/14/2017 08:41


What % of success is required for the world record? Anybody could play that many
games if they didn't have to win a certain amount.

Uommibatto 1/14/2017 10:27


Re: % required. I think eighty % is considered the minimum to qualify for the record. I
don't know how this figure was arrived at. Another issue of course is average playing
strength of the opponents. You can see from the game scores that some players are quite
strong, over 2000 US, while others are quite weak. I don't know what if any the
guidelines are here, or who would decide such a thing. In any case, great job by Timur
and his crew, and a well written article from Mr. Silver.

stierlitz 1/16/2017 01:38


So, is this great achievement going into Guiness World Records? It is definetely way
more amazing than the record of a man having most snails on his face.

neilparker62 1/16/2017 05:51


"... not some winning ticket in the genetic lottery he was lucky enough to be born with."
One certainly wouldn't argue the prodigious effort Timur put into achieving this
remarkable feat but - hey - he most definitely did come up trumps in the 'genetic lottery'
as well ! There is just no way 'mere mortals' such as myself could ever hope to keep
track of just one game blindfold let alone 48. Bravo is all I can say.
1

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Memory Techniques: Memory Palace,


from Roman times to today
6/3/2017 The Memory Palace is a name that has grown steadily into the mainstream
of thought and culture. What not many realize, is that this system dates back over 2000
years and was written about in detail by intellectual giants such as Cicero, who was an
enthusiastic proponent. In this first part on the Memory Palace, you will be introduced
to what it is and its history (and how it can eventually be used with chess).
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Memory Techniques: An Introduction

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By David Fadul

If you read my previous article about memory techniques, you saw the kind of results
that can be achieved with the diligent application of mnemonics. Things as amazing as
what was accomplished by Timur Gareyev, who last year broke the world record for
most games played in a blindfold simul. Since you are here now, I assume that you
decided to give memory techniques a try. I am sure you will be glad that you did and I
hope that mnemonics changes your life for the better, as it changed mine.

Since this tutorial is directed at beginners, Ill assume that you are completely
unfamiliar with the subject, but even if you are an intermediate practitioner, I think
youll find some of the tips useful. My main goal in this and the following articles is to
help you avoiding the mistakes that stalled my progress as I started with mnemonics,
since those can be quite frustrating and even had led me to give up for several years.
Here is the first hint and is rule number 1:

#All memory techniques and tricks have this in common: the more effort you put into
the groundwork, the more powerful the results will be.

Remembering that fact alone goes a long way. The techniques I will describe are exactly
the same applied by world class memory competitors and yet you and I will probably
never get to their level unless we practiced for several hours a day, like they do.
Mnemonics is a skill and mastering it to world class levels requires almost unbelievable
discipline and effort.

2013 World Memory Championship


Luckily, just as one can play, enjoy and get benefits from chess even if one never
becomes a grandmaster, the same is true about memory I cannot memorize a thousand
digits in an hour, but I can memorize a hundred digits in 20 minutes and that has been
enough for all practical purposes.

But rule #1 has another implication: you will only reap the rewards after investing your
time and effort into it. If you want great results, you will spend months laying the
groundwork (Timurs preparation took the better part of a year). And theres the rub:
most people would be unwilling (for very good reasons) to spend weeks learning how to
apply some technique without seeing any results.

That is why we are going to start small, and build a simple Palace where you can
temporarily store just ten items. It is nothing earth shattering, but will serve as a proof
of concept something to show you that it is possible to remember things in a different
way.

If your goal is to apply memory techniques to chess (or to study or other practical
purposes really) then you need to learn how to store the memories permanently. In our
lives we condition ourselves to 'cram' for tests, knowing full well that more often than
not, a lot of that study will be lost weeks later at the most.

Still, there are time when one only needs to remember the information for a limited
amount of time for example, in memory competitions, a person may need to memorize
the order of a deck of cards or a list of hundreds of random words or digits but after the
competition is over, there would be little reason to cling to this information. The same
would be the case if you were using mnemonics to play a blindfold simul. On the other
hand, if you are memorizing chess games or openings, you will want to make that
information permanent.

The reason why getting something we just studied to stick is so hard is due (in part) to
how limited our short term memory is. Every bit of information that we want to
remember for more than a few seconds must be encoded into our long-term memory,
and after it is there all you need is to review it constantly, at first, but with increasingly
longer intervals between reviews.

However, there are two problems: first, the way we naturally memorize information
makes reviewing it systematically very hard, so most people will do it only when
revisiting the book or video where they saw the information (or finding it in some other
venue). Second, in order for the data to be encoded in the long term memory it must
first be stored in the short term memory, which is, well, pretty bad, comparatively.

According to memory researchers (Cowan, 2001) we can only store 4 to 6 items (more
if we can combine the item into groups) in our working memory (the distinction
between short term and working memory is disputed, technical and unimportant for our
purposes) and only for the duration of, at most, 30 seconds. If you ever had to repeat a
phone number or address until you could write it down, then you already know the
limits of short term memory. Repeating the information is a way to put it back in your
working memory if you stop repeating, the number disappears. Dont worry; it will
not happen again after you learn mnemonics.

Even thou we are starting small, it is always good to keep an eye at the prize, so to
speak. If your intention is to apply the techniques to chess, let me show you the road
that lies ahead. If your interest in mnemonics is not chess-related (or at least not
exclusively chess-related), dont worry, you will learn many methods to memorize
different things for different purposes. Each one of them is a necessary step toward our
goal, but all of them can be used separately. Besides, the techniques can be easily (but
not effortlessly) adapted to other purposes.

This is our road: First, we will see how to temporarily memorize a small list of items.
That will show that there are different ways to remember and, with some practice, can
be indefinitely expanded to memorize arbitrarily long lists. The missing link between
this simple exercise and a Memory Palace adequate for chess is the Peg system. It is the
Peg system that really facilitates memorization and that allows memory champions to
memorize a deck of cards in less than 30 seconds. A peg is basically an image, often a
person, that you imagine in lieu of something you want to remember. So, after you have
the Memory Palace under your belt, I will show you how to create some pegs as there
are some tricks to make the process easier. A peg system will also facilitate the process
of transforming temporary Palaces into permanent ones. Finally, we will wrap it all up
by creating pegs specifically for chess.

Our first technique, the Memory Palace, has a very long and proud tradition that goes
back (allegedly) to Ancient Greece. It has been called by a number of names such as
mind palace and the method of loci (loci meaning places in Latin). Sometimes, it is
facetiously called the Dominic Hotel, when used in conjunction with the Dominic
System, but, in my opinion, none of these names have the same ring to it as Memory
Palace.

Legend has it that the poet Simonides was attending a banquet and, as he was absent
from the hall, disaster struck and hall ceiling fell not only killing, but also rendering the
all the guests unrecognizable. As the story goes, the families of the victims unwilling
to risk taking the wrong body and mourn for a Montague who was actually a Capulet
asked Simonides if he could identify any of the bodies. As it was, he said he could
identify all of them. He did so by correlating the position where a guest was seated to
his position. And that would have inspired Simonides to develop the Method of Loci.

Simonides being lured away from the deathtrap by the ghosts of Castor and Pollux, as
told by Cicero. I did mention that it was a legend, didnt I?

Whatever the truth of the legend, there are clear records of it dating from the Romans,
and the panegyric of the Memory Palace has been sang by none other than Marcus
Tullio Cicero, who, in De Oratore, tells us the nice anecdote about Simonides and the
crushed dinner guests. Cicero was an enthusiast of the art of memory and dedicates
several passages to its history and use.
Copy of De Oratore by Cicero, recorded by hand on vellum

Cicero, who lived in the final days of the Roman Republic and died with it in 43 BCE,
described over 2000 years ago the basic ideas behind the Memory Palace and while
much progress has been made since then, it is truly fascinating that in its essence the
method has not changed it has only been complemented.
Marcos Tullio Cicero, former consul of the Roman Empire, is also one of the most
influential writers of all time

Another Roman orator, Quintilian, who lived in the Imperial period a few decades after
Cicero, also describes the Method of Loci in his Institutio Oratoria. He emphasizes the
importance of the ars memoriae as the romans called mnemonics, the art of memory
as memoria is one of the five canons of the practice of oratory.

Just as famous Romans such as Cicero and Quintilian wrote about and used these
techniques over 2000 years ago, the same techniques can be and are used today to
memorize a full chapter of Moby Dick as in the illustrative video above

Presently there is a plethora of knowledge and information available regarding the


mnemonics and the Memory Palace in particular not to mention scientific literature
that explore the topic. An increasing number of World Champions now make a point to
share their improvements to the classical techniques, and fine-tuning, and help develop
the mnemonics community collective knowledge. One world champion in particular,
Dominic OBrian, created the aptly named Dominic System, which helped him win the
world memory championship no fewer than eight times.

People like Dominic OBrian or Jonas Von Essen and other memory champions are not
savant or anti-social autistics, like Dustin Hoffman in Rain Man, counting cards without
even thinking about it. Many of them are regular, run-of-the-mill nerds like you or I
and some are distinguished gentleman, such as Mr. OBrien. In fact, there is no reason
to even suspect they have a particularly good memory, OBrien even states point blank
that he used to have a poor memory, suffering from dyslexia and ADD as well.

Enhance Your Memory by Dominic O'Brien (8 Times Memory World Champion)

Like all other memory techniques, the principles behind the Palace are exceedingly
simple: to take advantage of what the human brain remembers easily (images and
locations) and to circumvent what it remembers poorly (random numbers or items).

#All memory methods and tricks use the principle of avoiding what is taxing and
focusing on what is naturally easy for the human brain.

Now that you are familiar with the concept of a Memory Palace, we must see how to
use it in practice. But, first, so that we can have a baseline to compare with our
improvements, let us test our memories without using any methods or tricks. Lets try to
memorize ten items the old fashioned way. I just googled a grocery list and typed it
bellow read it twice and dont use any technique that you may already know; but, if
you think it will help, you can read it slowly or repeat the items continuously or do
anything you would normally do when trying to remember a similar list. After reading it
twice, cover it, count to ten out loud (this is an important detail), and then write down
all the items you can remember:

1. Bread
2. Chocolate
3. Honey
4. Tea
5. Orange Juice
6. Butter
7. Coffee
8. Biscuits
9. Eggs
10. Rice

So, how many items you got? If you are like most people, you remembered between
four and six (most likely the first and last items and two or three between). If you
organized the items in categories, you probably remembered a few more.

I just took the test as well for the first time in years I memorized something without
using a memory technique, and I must say that I didnt expect it, but I had to
consciously avoid using my Palace and it wasnt easy! The process has become
automatic in ways that I had not realized before now. Anyway, apparently, I have a
completely ordinary memory as I could only remember six items, even though I had just
typed the list. Oh, well, I suppose the cat is out of the bag now. Then again, the whole
point of memory techniques is to be able to avoid doing what we just did.

We will try again, but next time we will use our palaces.

Topics memory technique, memory


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Memory Techniques: An Introduction


5/30/2017 Have you ever read about some genius who seemingly had a memory
reserved for movies or fiction? Have you ever wished you had some of that, even if you
have a good memory now, or can barely remember the number of your mobile phone?
The fact is that these seemingly impossible feats are well within the grasp of anyone, if
they learn some basic techniques of memorization. Here is an introduction.

More...
Video

The Botvinnik System in the English


opening
The setup for White recommended by Valeri Lilov is solid and easy to play the
thematic moves are almost always the same ones: Nge2, 0-0, Bg5 (or Be3), Nd5, Qd2.
Later, according to Blacks setup, things continue with f4 or even Rac1, b4 and play on
the queenside. Starting with the classic Botvinnik-Spassky, Leiden 1970, the author
describes this universally employable setup in 7 videos (+ intro and conclusion).
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spaceprobe 6 hours ago
Remember the match Kasparov vs the World on the Date 1999.10.22 ?
Wouldn't it be a thrilling event to repeat this event with one of the 5 top chess players,
1. Carlsen, Magnus 2. So, Wesley 3. Kramnik, Vladimir 4. Caruana, Fabiano 5.
Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar .

fons 5 hours ago


Will I find true enlightenment at the end of this road? When's the time I fork over all my
belongings?

kenard 5 hours ago


hmmm, where did I put my car keys?

KOTLD 3 hours ago


@kenard : i seem to be able to remember 40 moves of Semi-Slav theory, but always
forget the damn keys (and mobile phone) :)

RayLopez 2 hours ago


I enjoyed this tease of an article, with references to history, but there's no memory rule
offered. I missed just "eggs" on the list.
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